It had been a while since I did a flash fiction challenge. Patti Abbott posted one featuring a picture of a young man with the name “Frank, Jr.” I had just seen a piece on the History Channel about the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra, Jr., in 1963. Reading up on the players in the crime, the story came easily.
The plot was hatched by Barry Keenan, once a successful stockbroker, but now broke after a car accident and resulting pain killer addiction left him penniless. His co-conspirators were a house painter and one of his mother’s ex-boyfriends, as unlikely a crew for a heist or a sting as you would ever find. Keenan, possibly as a result of his addiction, heard voices and thought his plan had been blessed by God. However, during the kidnapping, Keenan and his friends ran out of money. They needed the ransom simply to pay their hotel bill. Back then they could be had for less than $10 a night, so we are talking really broke.
I decided to write the story from kidnapper Johnny Irwin’s point of view, based on accounts of the kidnapping. Of course, Sinatra, Jr., had to be scared when he was taken hostage, but based on what later became known about his captors, it’s quite likely he really did sit and shake his head at their ineptitude, simply waiting for his father to resolve the situation in whatever way worked.
A Score for Little Dale
This one also started out as a blog story challenge. It was inspired by some neighbors I had in my Mt. Washington days, which also prompted me to use the fictionalized Mt. Washington as the setting. We had neighbors with sticky fingers. Shortly after they moved in, they broke into every locker in the apartment complex and helped themselves to whatever they could find. I lost a set of golf clubs (no major loss) and tools I’d owned for almost twenty years at that point (big loss). I knew who did it. I couldn’t prove it.
At one point, they decided to hide a couple of their “colleagues” from the police. The following morning, two casually dressed gentlemen flash their badges at me and question me about the neighbors. I told them what little I knew about them, mentioned I suspected them of burglary, and that they had only been there for about a month. The police later called the landlord to warn him that they were removing the apartment’s front door.
Eventually, the boyfriend (I doubt he was a husband) left in the back of a Cincinnati Police cruiser. The woman moved out with a new boyfriend, unfortunately next door to our complex. Her new boyfriend made a point of casing the complex. I and a few other neighbors made a point of telling the police about it.
So when a blogger some years back put out a challenge about an child’s baseball cap and an armored car, I already had material for the story. It’s a bit involved, and this one probably could have been stretched out into a novel, something along the lines of a Neil Smith book maybe.
Whittle You Into Kindlin’
I’ve had a character who was a rock star. Li’l Sis called him “Himself” for reasons I won’t get into here. Brian Thornton calls him “the Rock Dude.” His story has evolved since my teen years, when yours truly became the finest air guitarist in the Midwest in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I’ve always wanted to do something with this character because, like all good characters in a writer’s mind, he won’t shut the hell up until I do. I’ve been using his “autobiography” as a way to keep writing when I’m not working on a short story or a novel. There are some short stories I can mine from this, and possibly, a mainstream fiction novel.
One story that came about was how his band from the 1980’s and 1990’s changed managers. “You’ve been robbing us, and you’re fired” does not make for much drama. What does make for much drama is when two of the band members grew up hunting. And still hunt. And one of them still has access to land where his family hunted when he was a kid. Even better, that land lies across a foreign border, namely Mexico.
Now, a manager lifting millions is nothing original. Hell, Allen Klein legally did it to the Rolling Stones. But let’s say the manager does something else. Let’s say the manager has a taste for young girls. And two of the band members have teenage daughters. Crooked, perverted manager + two clients’ daughters and an intern = motive for murder.
It was the first time I introduced the murder story into this storyline. The Rock Dude, as I call him, is little more than a peripheral character in this one. I was more interested blues guitarist Mike Sandford and his Pittsburgh roots, aging drummer Jimi Sanchex who is getting tired of the music scene, and young Freddie Dawson, who is just now discovering the cost of some of his vices.
Gotham Square Hero
This one is set in Monticello, the setting of Holland Bay. The story itself is one I’d had in mind for a while, a homeless man kills a mugger in broad daylight and claims he killed a demon. I decided to make Detective Jeff Kagan, a major character in Holland Bay, the central character. The other thing I wanted to try was to tell the entire story in dialog.
That’s a challenge. You’re asking a reader to do most of the work to figure out who’s talking and what’s happening. It took two or three tries, but it finally worked.
The “Duke of Monticello” concept came from an old story about an eccentric man from San Francisco, Joshua Norton, who declared himself “Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico” around the time of the Civil War. During his “reign,” he summoned Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis to his “chambers” (really one of his favorite saloons) to explain themselves. The locals treated him as a local character, and more recently, some wanted to rename the Bay Bridge in his honor.. When I decided to give my killer a reason to call himself the Duke of Monticello, Norton I came to mind.